GREEK POETIC METRICS

OLD GREEK POETIC METRICS

GREEK POETIC METRICS

However different today's music may seem at first sight from the tonal art of the ancient peoples, there is still a strict continuity between it and the music of old, which can be discovered if one traces the gradual development of musical culture through the different historical epochs. Such continuity exists in intonation, especially in the melodic schemes (laods and cadential stereotypes) on which the various tunes are built. For example, the two main chords (major and minor) which have become so widespread in new European music have existed since time immemorial and their melodic schemes and intervals were bequeathed to us by the ancient Hellenes, who in turn inherited them from other Eastern peoples. But even more striking is this continuity in the rhythmic schemes that serve as the basis of new (classical, romantic and contemporary) European music. In this area, too, research by music scholars and theorists has shed abundant light.


In his work Musical Form Studies in Analysis, Theodore Wimmeyer, in an effort to discover the origins of the basic and essentially few rhythmic motifs and combinations of durations that have become more widespread in European music, comes to the conclusion that they have their origins in the verse forms (so-called metrical steps) of ancient Greek poetic metrics.He gives typical examples drawn from classical and modern music, from which it can be seen that the most famous works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, etc. are built on rhythmic and metrical patterns bequeathed to us by the ancient Greek lyric and dramatic poets.

The same idea was developed by Rudolf Westphal in his "General Theory of Musical Rhythmics" and in his works on ancient Greek metrics. Westphal attempts to build the whole of musical rhythmicity on the basis of ancient Greek metre, ancient Greek versification.Even if some of his views are now outdated, his basic idea of the Old Greek origin and the origin of all sorts of rhythmic routines in modern music remains plausible.

No less valuable in this field are the studies of Theodor Renac, Maurice Emmanuel, Louis Lalois, Hugo Riemann, and others, and, in more recent times, of Lev Mazel and V.Zuckermann, who, however different in their interpretation of the facts, share similar conceptions on this matter of principle. Today, there is already considerable research material in this field of musicology, which makes it possible to establish a continuity in the development of musical culture from the earliest antiquity to the present day and a direct or indirect continuity in the construction of rhythmic motifs, schemes and ranks both in folk music and in professional musical creativity. These studies have shown that the original exemplars of all the rhythmic schemes and combinations of durations of modern European music are to be found in the rhythm of ancient Greek music, which itself is only a particular case of poetic metre. These patterns are particularly alive in the musical and dance folklore of the Balkan and Near Eastern peoples, including Bulgarian folk music, where we find many metrical traces of ancient poetics preserved.

This gives us reason and occasion to take a very cursory look at the poetic metrics of the ancient peoples, mainly Greeks and Romans, by reviewing the more famous bars and rhythms (steps, dipodia, tripodia, tetrapodia, etc.) that found application in classical versification. This review is made all the more necessary by the fact that ancient poetic metrics are the basis of musical rhythmicity, and that we still today find in musical folklore many relics of the poetic dimensions ("sound-steps") of the ancient lyricists, ablativists, and dramatists. A systematic study of these bars and rhythms should be the subject of a special study.